If you’re not familiar with Columbus Food Adventures, you need to be. Columbus Food Adventures is a company started by one of Columbus’ premier food bloggers and foodies, Bethia Woolf, in which she and her husband Andy, offer guided tours throughout Columbus, and provide an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at some of Columbus’ best hidden culinary treasures. Throughout each tour, you are able to sample the foods, meet the cooks, and learn the history of each stop, and many times, their respective neighborhoods. Columbus Food Adventures offers a wide range of tours from those focusing on some of Columbus’ best sweets and desserts, to exploring some of the city’s lesser-known ethnic eateries, to our increasingly popular local coffee roasters. I recently joined them on one of their popular tours, the Meat Lover’s Tour, because…well, I’m just a carnivorous sort of guy, and you can never learn too much about how to prepare and eat meat!!
The Meat Lover’s Tour offers four stops on what is practically a meat-lover’s paradise, with probably the most well-known being Skillet in the German Village neighborhood of the city, then a stop at Thurn’s Specialty Meats, a combo market/restaurant stop at Apna Bazaar and Tandoori Grill, and finally Korean barbecue at San Su.
We started our tour at the darling of Columbus foodies, Skillet. Urban. Rustic. Food. Skillet is famous for bringing seasonal farm to table comfort classics to life and giving them an urban edge. We met Chef Kevin Caskey, and he gave us a brief history of the restaurant and their true desire to focus on the freshest local ingredients available anywhere in the city. He described how every dish they make is always ingredient driven with complex flavors, but never meant to be complicated. He told us about how the harvest and seasons drives and varies their menu not only on a daily, but often times hourly basis.
Best known for their breakfast and brunch dishes, Skillet also serves an ever-changing menu where they highlight some of Central Ohio’s finest farm to table lunch and dinner options as well. We sampled what Chef Caskey referred to as a riff on a classic poutine. It consisted of pan-roasted fingerling potatoes, fresh cheese curds from Laurel Valley Creamery, and braised lamb shoulder from Bluescreek Farm Meats. It was topped with a slightly curry-flavored sauce and garnish of fresh baby greens. The flavors were absolutely amazing. The lamb was moist and succulent, the cheese curds were delicate and creamy, and the potatoes roasted perfectly. It was an incredible start to a great evening.
Our next stop was at Thurn’s Specialty Meats on Greenlawn Ave. Thurn’s is a 130-year-old family owned business that produces some of the finest meat products in central Ohio. Forth generation owner, Albert Thurn, and his brother Anton, told us stories about the rich history of Thurn’s, and gave us a tour of their processing facility. We met them at the front counter where we started our tour, and they showed us many of the meats that they sell on a daily basis. Albert was a heck of a nice guy, and has a mind like a steel trap – every single recipe they use to process, blend, spice and cook sausages and other meats are all stored in Albert’s head. He told us he’s been working the family business since he was eight years old, and has just stored every detail in his brain.
Albert gave us a tour of the back of the house, and educated us all on the edible anatomy of a pig and where each cut of meat comes from. He also showed us casings for each of the different sausages and processed meats like salami, bologna, and others. It was an awesome experience and a privilege to be given the opportunity to see how Thurn’s operates on a daily basis. Thurn’s is only open Wednesday through Saturday, because Sunday through Tuesday, their employees are all hard at work cleaning, cutting, smoking, cooking, grinding, stuffing, and processing their meat for the rest of the week. And believe it or not, more than 2000 lbs of meat are prepared per week by only 3-4 full-time employees!
One of my favorite parts of the tour was seeing some of my favorite meats (BACON!!!) hanging, ready to go into their smokehouse. One of Thurn’s biggest sellers is their smoked bacon. Albert told us they smoke with a blend of oak and mulberry wood.
Sausages were being prepped as well. I actually purchased some of their Smoked Hungarian sausage to bring home, on the recommendation of Anton.
At the end of the visit, Albert and Anton sliced up many of their specialty meats and cheeses, and offered quite the spread, and even paired them with some nice wines for us to sample as well. Some of the meats they offered I was familiar with, like hard salami, Cottage hams, and capocolla, and others that I have never tried, like Bockwurst, schinken, cooked tongue, head cheese, blood sausage, and more.
I loaded up on some of the ones I felt were “safe” (i.e. meats I wasn’t too scared to eat!!) like the hams and salamis, but I did also go a little adventurous and tried some smoked salmon and bockwurst. Everything I had was outstanding, but I think my absolute favorite was their killer ham salad!!
I have to admit, at the end of this visit, I was beginning to wonder how much more I would be able to eat. But with two more stops still to go, I pushed the full-stomach feeling to the back of my brain, and loaded into the tour van for our next stop!!
To be continued…..